Monday, May 5, 2014

Cirque Du Seabreeze

          Seabreeze High School's 2014 Prom's theme was vintage circus.  We dubbed it "Cirque Du Seabreeze."  The circus wagon and photo cutouts were made by our construction students and the balloons were done by Balloons by Beth in Daytona Beach. Oh, and a student made a ringmaster's coat for our principal which he wore to greet our students!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Ham

     I remember when I was first married, I was completely intimidated by the baking of a ham.  Certainly this was something my grandmother spent hours preparing and fretting over.  Alas, the baked ham is probably one of the easiest and tastiest dinners you could make.
     Now, I am not talking about one of those fancy hams where you score the ham in a geometrical pattern and then stab it with whole cloves and strategically place slices of pineapple with maraschino cherries  around the geometrical pattern.  Nor, am I talking about one of those pre-sliced spiral sweet hams where you mix the provided packet with water on the stove and then slather the sugary goop down the slices.  I am talking about a good old country ham that is simply baked to enjoy the smokiness and saltiness of the pig.
     This could not be easier. I usually buy a semi-boneless ham (on sale) and wrap it in foil.  I probably use enough foil to pick up cable television in Russia.  Then, put it in a pan and bake it at 325 degrees for about forty-five minutes per pound.  Essentially you are baking it on a lower heat for a longer time.  You almost want to overcook the ham. When you take it out the oven, you should be able to "fork it" a part.  Least that is what my grandmother always said.
     I just love the simple pleasure of a simple country ham.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Student Writing: Map of My Heart

Map of My Heart

     This is a writing activity I do with my high school creative writing class.  Almost every day, we start class with an invitation to write.  Before this activity, I invite them to write about what is most important to them in life. As always, we do a class share and some of the responses are serious, some funny, and some very practical.  But, my students are never boring. The writing ranges from "The Walking Dead" to chocolate to family.
     Next, I go through the children's book My Map Book by Sara Fanelli. It is adorable. My teenage students love this book and I have to thank my National Writing Project colleague, Dr. Kathy Holt for introducing it to me.  My Map Book has many maps a child would find important. A map of the neighborhood, a map of my room, a map of my tummy, and so on. After we go through the book, I return to the pages that cover the map of my heart.
     From that point, my students use Fanelli's book for inspiration and their invitation to write to create their own map of my heart. I have them compose a poem based on what would be included in their map and then we peer edit.  I give them a heart template and let them go.  The results are wonderful and I post them up in the classroom for all to see.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

To My Seniors...

My seniors. I have so many hopes for you and I want to share some advice that I hope will serve you well over the years.

First from Stephen King’s On Writing, “ Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, or making friends.  In the end, it is about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over.  Getting happy, okay? Getting happy. Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art.  The water is free.  So drink.  Drink and be filled up.”

Words have power. Your words have power.  Use them.

My father is a terse man.He is unlike my mama who could talk the horns off of a billy goat. He is loving and kind, but he is a hugger - not a talker. When he does speak, I remember it. When I graduated from high school, he told me, “In the future, you will sit in many rooms full of people. In these rooms there will sometimes be people smarter than you and people  more creative than you. But by God, don't you ever let anyone in that room work harder than you.”

It is simple, hard work pays off. Don't ever let anyone beat you in that particular race.

When I was little, my mama had a string of pearls I loved to play with. My father gave them to her when they were married.  I would swing them around and around pretending I was a flapper from the 20's. I would have fit right in at a Gatsby party. Invariably the pearls would fly loose from my grip and smack against the wall skittering rogue pearls deep into uncharted crevices of my bedroom. She never fussed at me. She just sent them to Tom's Jewelers to be restrung just shy a pearl or two. When I was an adult I somewhat scolded my mother for letting me get away with such nonsense. She just smiled, looked at me and said, "Leah, you just enjoyed them so much. Playing with them made you so happy. In the end the pearls are just a possession. Possessions do not matter. People matter."

Know what is important and cherish it.

From me. Short and to the point. "You show up and you try." I hope this little piece of advice from me sticks with you. Because, selfishly, I know if you all show up and try, there is a real possibility for a better world, and I want to live in that world.

Lastly, I want to leave you with this. There will be times when people will make you feel less than you are.  It is a cruel reality that people like to knock down those who sparkle hoping some glitter will spill on them. You all sparkle and glitter and shine.  If this thought ever starts to waver in your heart, please remember in this time and in this place a group of fabulous people thought you were pretty fabulous too.

Don't you ever forget it.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Measuring the Immeasurable

Measuring the Immeasurable 

     I sat in a meeting today where my district asked for volunteers to create end- of- course exams for classes not already covered by some type of standardized test.  Stupidly I was surprised when creative writing was one of these courses.  I turned to the teacher next to me and said, “How do you make a standardized test for creative writing?”
     He said, “Seems counterintuitive, doesn't it?”
     Yes, yes it does.  I know that there is good writing and bad writing, but I still hate the thought of standardizing high school creative writing and trying to make it fit in a box. 
     Creative writing is about going through the writing process and learning there is no one way to process writing.  It is about creating a writing community and writing raw emotion.  It is about exploring different genres and finding your best style.  It is about trusting your peers and sharing a piece of humanity with them.  It is about tears and laughter.  It is about fear and courage. It is about writing with your heart and with your head.  It is about putting the pen to the paper and the fingers to the keys.  It is about living for the words because words change things.  They change minds and souls.  They change directions and shapes. They change policy and procedure. They change sight and sound. They change beliefs and ideas.  They change who we are.
     How in the heavens do my students bubble that on a test?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

They Are So Done

     I have watched my seniors over the past few days become ornery, cranky, and sassy.  Their senoritis has reached a new higher level.  Most of them have been accepted to their colleges and they just want to go ahead and be college students RIGHT NOW. They have one last nine weeks to put in and they feel like they would rather stick forks in their eyes.  I wish I could make them stop.  Not just because it would make my life more pleasant, but because I was just like them in 1987.  Not savoring my last weeks of high school is one of my biggest regrets, and I wish that I could protect my students from that.  In class tomorrow, I am going to have them write about what they will miss about high school, and it made me think about what I did not realize I would miss when I left behind my childhood home for the masses at the University of Florida.

     I missed having a teacher care if I succeeded or not.  For my first two years of college I was a social security number on a scantron or a "young lady in the pink shirt." No professor cared whether I showed up to class to answer questions (if they were even asked) and no professor cared if I failed the course or not.  On some level I enjoyed anonymity, but back then I performed better if I was held accountable by someone who knew my first name and by someone who knew to "conviently" run into my mama at the grocery store.

     I missed seeing my very best friend every day.  Several times a day. The phone and a weekend visits were not the same as laughing together in English, laughing together in government, and getting yelled at for laughing together in band.  In college, you do not walk into a classroom and slide into the desk next to your best friend.  Instead, you scan the 600 person auditorium and curse yourself for not bringing a book to read like everyone else trying to avoid eye contact.

    I missed dancing four nights a week at the dance studio where I took lessons since I was four years old.  Almost every night, ballet, jazz, tap.  Goofing around the barre with girls who did not go to my school, but who I knew more intimately than most of my classmates.  Most of my nights  freshman year were spent studying or awkwardly getting to know my sorority sisters who would eventually become a family of sorts.

     I missed having drawers full of clean clothes and a refrigerator full of food, drinks, and snacks.  I usually found myself wearing ratty sweatpants up to the public laundry room to watch my one load tumble through the dryer because you learn very quickly to not leave your laundry unattended.  People are gross.  That is all you need to know about that.  And, I cannot tell you how many times I counted pennies out of my car ashtray to scrap together a $1.29 that would buy me a two liter of Diet Coke and five packages of Ramen Noodles from the Suwanee Swifty.  A feast for a two and half days!

     I missed going to the beach whenever I wanted.  Drive my car down the beach during lunch.  Pop down right after school for a quick swim.  Read for hours sitting in the waterline.  Smell the ocean from my house.  Hear the waves from the second story at school.  At UF I had to either drive an hour to Crescent City or two hours home to enjoy the beach.  When something is always there, you don't realize how much a part of you it becomes until it is no longer there.

     By far, college was the most fun I ever had.  I learned a lot about myself and my academics went far beyond the classroom.  And, of course, college is where I met the love of my life.  By no means do I really want to go back and do high school all over again, or make time stop when I was seventeen (kissed a lot of frogs that never became princes), but I do wish that I had appreciated all of those little things a little more.  Instead of being hell bent on getting out of Daytona and kicking all of the sand out of my shoes I would have enjoyed my last weeks just a bit more. I would have laughed a a little longer, listened to my first name more carefully, and hugged my parents more fiercely.

     The future is coming.  There is no stopping it.  Please don't wish away the present.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Rescue

The Rescue

     This is my in-laws' new dog.  They think she looks like a fox, so they gave her the very original name, Foxy.  She had been a stray hanging around my father-in-law's office the last couple of weeks.  He officially retired last week, and on his last day, he brought Foxy home. This is surprising because my father-in-law is not known for his sweet side.  He is a kind man, but he is not affectionate to people much less a dog.
     Here is the thing, she is such a sweet little creature, that she has brought out the sweetness in him.  She is a mutt, but she definitely has a lot of basenji in her.  She doesn't bark and she is house broken.  She lies on his chest when he reclines in his chair in front of the television, and she sleeps all night in their bed.  He spends his days puttering around the garage and she stays right next to him.  wherever he goes, she goes.  And, this is a man who would not let his wife eat french fries in the car, but now foxy sits next to him in the passenger's seat.  This just goes to show what a dog (particularly a rescue) will do to someone's heart.